ARCTIC NATION: Giant NATO Exercise

November 4, 2018 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

Trident Juncture.

Marines conduct cold-weather training in Iceland

Before setting out for NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise in Norway, U.S. Marines took cold-weather training in Iceland in October.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Marine Corps Lance Corporal Menelik Collins)

Fifty thousand troops, 250 aircraft, 65 naval vessels and about 10,000 ground vehicles have converged on Norway — and nearby waters — for  Trident Juncture 2018, the largest  military exercise by western nations since the end of the Cold War.

Military and civilian personnel from the 29 member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and two Nordic neighbors, Sweden and Finland, are taking part in the enormous war game, which started October 25 and runs through November 7.

One of the largest contingents, after the Norwegian hosts, comes from the United States, which has sent some 14,000 personnel — including 6,000 sailors  from the USS Harry S Truman Carrier Strike Group and more than 1,000 Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The Truman was the first U.S. aircraft carrier to enter Arctic waters since 1991.

U.S. Marines with 2nd Tank Battalion travel

Marines travel to the next objective during Trident Juncture 18 near Hjerkinn Norway, November 2, 2018. (U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Menelik Collins)

Other troops and weapons platforms included:

Eight Finnish Air Force F/A-18 Hornet fighter attack jets; Sweden’s 191st Mechanized Battalion; a joint Swedish-Finnish army battalion; the Spanish Navy frigate ESPS Cristobal Colon; the Dutch Navy frigate HNMLS De Ruyter, and four British Hawk light multirole fighters, four Royal Navy minehunters –HMS Cattistock, HMS Enterprise, HMS Grimsby and HMS Ramsey and two Type-23 frigates – HMS Westminster and HMS Northumberland.

NATO officials stressed Trident Juncture was a defensive exercise. “It is not directed against any country,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, adding “We are transparent in what we do. And we welcome the international observers — from Russia and many other countries.”

However, Stoltenberg noted : “We exercise to strengthen our ability to operate together, to test and certify the NATO Response Force, and to send a clear message.” While he didn’t specify what that message was, it was obvious to most observers the message was aimed at the increasingly aggressive Russian government.

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (above) speaks with Canadian troops at exercise Trident Juncture 2018 while Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen (light blue jacket) listens. (Norwegian Armed Forces/Forsvaret photo by Torbjorn Kjosvold)

4GWAR has previously reported, Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014 and its hybrid warfare campaign in support of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, has alarmed Western nations — especially those bordering the Baltic Sea like Poland, Estonia, Sweden and Finland.

But Moscow has complained about what it sees as NATO provocation by holding a massive military exercise on its doorstep. It sent it’s own message by sending a low-flying Tupolev TU-142, a Cold War era plane, over the Norwegian exercise.

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ARCTIC NATION is an occasional 4GWAR posting on the Far North. The U.S. “National Strategy for the Arctic Region” describes the United States as “an Arctic Nation with broad and fundamental interests” in the region. “Those interests include national security needs, protecting the environment, responsibly managing resources, considering the needs of indigenous communities, support for scientific research, and strengthening international cooperation on a wide range of issues.”

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